With Matt Holliday signed, the Cardinals filled their biggest and most pressing need, which was to acquire an elite bat to add to the lineup. Filling the left field vacancy isn’t the only need however, as there are other, albeit smaller, holes that John Mozeliak might want to fill before the season starts. Some of the potential needs the Redbirds face going into 2010 include adding another starter, adding a late inning reliever, a third-basemen, and a backup outfielder. The Cardinals are obviously on a limited budget now that they signed Holliday, and it’s being reported Mozeliak may only have $6-7 million left to work with. With a lot of free agents still unsigned, Mozeliak is in a position where he can let the market play out to see what bargains may be available in the next couple of months. It should also be noted that just because Mo’ has $6-7 million left to spend, don’t expect him to use all of his remaining funds before opening day. The Cardinals have traditionally been a team that likes to save some “dry powder” for mid-season acquisitions, which would make sense again in 2010. By saving some money to use at the trade-deadline, Mozeliak can wait to see which area of his club needs to be upgraded the most rather than maxing out his budget in the off-season and inhibiting his in-season flexibility. If the Cardinals are going make a move before the season, however, where should John Mozeliak choose to upgrade?
Late inning relief-The Cardinals currently have Ryan Franklin, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, Trever Miller, Dennys Reyes, Blake Hawksworth, Mitchell Boggs, and Josh Kinney all vying for bullpen spots heading into 2010. The Cardinals traded away a lot of their relief depth in the Khalil Greene and Mark Derosa deals last summer, but developing relievers hasn’t been a problem for Jeff Luhnow and the player development department and therefore probably isn’t the most pressing need going into next year.
Backup outfielder-With rehabbing Joe Mather the only potential backup outfielder with major league experience, the Cardinals could defintely use a veteran backup outfielder. Ryan Church seems to be a good fit, as he would represent a left-handed option off of the bench and can play all 3 outfield spots at a potentially low cost. A guy like Allen Craig definitely deserves a shot to be on the team, but Mozeliak could do worse than to add a guy like Church and his .787 career ops to help bolster the bench.
Third base-With David Freese the only legitimate option, the Cardinals’ depth is thin at the hot corner. Freese however, is also the best bet that the club has to fill one of its remaining voids from within. Freese is coming off of an injury riddled season and a recent DUI arrest, but is still a better option than signing a declining Miguel Tejada. The Cardinals should go into 2010 with Freese at the hot corner, and use some of the “dry powder” on a third base upgrade in the season if Freese falters.
Starting Rotation-On paper this is the one area of the club that appears to be set. With Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse, and rookie Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals potentially have a very robust rotation, but the starting pitching depth behind these five is not strong. When you consider that every member of the projected rotation has missed significant time in the last two years due to injury, and that guys like PJ Walters and rule-5 draftee Ben Jukich the “sixth starters,” it would make sense for Mozeliak to add another starting pitcher to the fold before the season. This would enable the Cardinals to start Jaime Garcia in AAA, where he could continue to build up strength after his Tommy John surgery. Ideally a guy like John Smoltz would be signed, but may be out of the Cardinals price range.
In conclusion, the Cardinals improved their 2010 club tremendously and are probably the division favorites after re-signing Matt Holliday. There are still some potential holes, however, and a limited budget to work with. Although some are calling for a late-inning reliever to help Ryan Franklin close out games or a third-basemen, I think it would make the most sense to add a backup outfielder like Ryan Church and another starting pitcher like John Smoltz. It’s unclear how much wiggle room John Mozeliak would like to keep for the season, but Cardinal fans should be hoping that he uses some of it on either another starting pitcher or a reserve outfielder.